Drones for Illegal Dumping

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, most commonly known as drones, are increasingly used in the delivery of services across the world. From videography and journalism, to safety inspections of inaccessible infrastructure; drones allow their remote operators to safely view and assess in a way that was impossible merely a handful of years ago.

In South Dublin County Council, the Waste & Litter Enforcement Management Team identified a unique and innovative use-case for drone technology – tackling the persistent problem of illegal dumping.

Across the entire Dublin region, illegal dumping now costs the local authorities more than €1.5million euro per annum. While the vast majority of citizens and businesses dispose of their waste correctly, a small cohort of individuals engage in illegal dumping activity that negatively impacts our local environment.

Project Activities

In 2017, supported by a national anti-dumping initiative, South Dublin County Council purchased two DJI Phantom 4 Drones to assist in waste facility monitoring and the identification of illegal dumping.

Drone usage in Ireland falls under the remit of the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) who are responsible for registration, regulation and training.  Seven staff members of South Dublin County Council have been IAA trained to ensure compliant, safe and efficient piloting of the drones when used to combat illegal dumping.

Today, the drones are used by South Dublin County Council weekly by trained personnel and are used to respond to public reports of illegal dumping in locations difficult to access, as well as to surveil suspected illegal activity. Remotely operated, the drone can target locations within a 300 meter radius of the pilot. Combined with other technologies, such as stationary cameras, footage captured has been instrumental in the collection of valuable evidence to pursue enforcement.

For members of the general public, concerns have been raised regarding drone footage and privacy, a concern which South Dublin County Council take seriously. Data collected by the drones is managed safely and securely with relevant footage only ever used as evidence in enforcement actions.

Project Impact

The drones have become an integral technology deployed by South Dublin County Council. Their usage has improved the quality of evidence captured and the time-frame of responding to reports. Based on the success of this innovative new work-practice, further staff members across multiple departments are currently engaging in IAA training to become qualified pilots.


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